WHEN former French Open winner Mary Pierce helped Zimbabwe’s rising tennis star Benjamin Lock get close up experience of Roland Garros, little did she know she had made him believe he is ‘not far off’ from playing at that level.By BRIGHTON ZHAWI
Pierce is a four time Grand Slam winner and a former world number three.
On top of that, she is also a family friend of the Locks.
It was her who got the 24-year-old the opportunity to watch top class player Novak Djokovic, rising star Dominic Thiem, losing finalist Stancilas Wawrinka and Venus Williams in action during his three-day stay in Paris.
“To be there in the locker rooms, player lounges with the best in the world is seriously inspiring,” Lock told The Sunday Mail last week during the first circuit of the ongoing Zimbabwe Futures.
“You also learn so much from speaking to them and watching them play live,”
Lock, who was accompanied by his sweetheart Daniela Schippers Estrada in the city of love, believes he is destined to play at the top level.
“It was great for me to see tennis on such a big stage and also to see that I am not far off from competing against the top players in the world,” he said.
“She (Pierce) organized player passes for me and my girlfriend.
“I didn’t talk to these players, but did speak with Raven Klaseen and his coach.
“Raven is from South Africa and is a top 10 doubles player in the world.
“And obviously Mary Pierce was giving me advice also,” he said.
Lock’s dream Roland Garros experience coincides with him celebrating one-year since turning professional.
“Obviously I am very happy that I made the decision to turn pro.
“I had always planned to be a pro tennis player from a young age so it was a really easy decision,” he said.
However, the former Florida State University student reckons the pro world is not all sunshine and rainbows.
“The life of a pro athlete is not an easy one and requires sacrifice, dedication, patience and hunger to be better each and every day.”
“Last year I was ranked 700 in the world and now I am ranked 430 in singles and 350 in doubles.
“I feel I have reached a good level of play but I feel I have so much more to improve on my game which is the exciting part,” he said.
During this period Lock has won four Futures tournaments, namely in Mozambique, twice in Egypt and is hoping for a repeat on home courts in the ongoing Zimbabwe Futures he also won last year.
All this desired success should culminate into three things.
“Promoting Zimbabwe in the Davis Cup, reaching the ATP tour and being top 250 are my main goals
“I would like to be in the top 250 in the world so that I can qualify for the Grand Slams,” he said.
At 24, pessimists might rule ‘Twizza’s’ chances out, but he appears to be dealing with the negative energy well.
“There are people who don’t want you to succeed and will judge your career on every match and result.
“I have learnt to block out the negative people and focus on all the positivity I receive from my family, friends, Zimbabwean fans and the general public.
“I also turn towards my faith in God, during times of hardship and failure, as I know He is the one who has blessed me with the talent and opportunity to pursue professional tennis.”